Thursday, July 19, 2007

Art Blogging: Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a Flemish Baroque painter. His greatest achievement was to merge the realism of Dutch painting with the classicism of the Italian Renaissance. His father, a highly-educated Calvinist, was forced to flee the Spanish-occupied Netherlands for Germany before Rubens was born. When Rubens' father died in 1587, he and his family settled in Antwerp. He was apprenticed to various painters in that city and came under the influence of the Romanists -- Dutch painters who imitated the style of the Italian Renaissance. Rubens himself later went to Italy and worked in Mantua for eight years, drinking deep from the well of Italian painting. In the ensuing years, he gained commissions for devotional works and portraits throughout Italy. Upon his mother's death he returned to Antwerp, intending to stay only briefly, only to find the expensive commissions offered to him so enticing that he settled there permanently. In Antwerp, with Hapsburg backing, he sold works throughout all of the great courts of Europe and became fabulously wealthy. In short, he translated Italian Renaissance painting into ways that all of Europe could understand it.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1620, oil on canvas, at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich). The swirling, tempestuous violence of this scene almost pours off of the canvas.

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen (oil on canvas, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Valenciennes).

Portrait of Helena Forment (1630, oil on canvas, at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels). This was Rubens' second wife.

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